More with Mac McCool!
Jaime: What materials do you like to work with?
Mac: I couldn’t do without Photoshop and my little Wacom tablet these days. However, my favorite tools remain a pencil and an ink brush (Winsor & Newton #7 series). Doodling with a pencil is so basic, yet versatile, and inking with a brush is lyrical. The curves and twirls, delicate dabs, dramatic swings evoke the grace of ballet dancing. The Yin to my brush’s Yang is a mechanical (Rotring) pen I have used since I was 13. Even though I find it far less seductive than the brush, its strength and predictability are impeccable and reassuring.
Jaime: What are you working on these days?
unnamed awesome university takes the bulk of my time. Under that cover, I’ve started playing “editor.” My students and I have put out a 100+ page graphic novel, “Herakles: Myth, Monsters, and Inner Demons” (soon available on Amazon). We’ve retold the famous myth of the Twelve Labors while bringing more continuity to the life journey and struggle of an unwilling hero, victim of his lineage. I will bring copies of “Herakles” at the conference.
We’re also completing a graphic novel anthology of Aesop’s fables set in the American Far-West. At first, it sounded like a goofy idea, but my students have surprised me and made it all work. Finally, next Fall, we’re going to produce our first alphabet picture book. A team of some 20 to 30 college students will each produce about one page using a wacky, innovative theme we’ll pick as a group.
Jaime: WHOA, your school project sounds fantastic! Any personal projects?
When I’m Mac McCool, the-non-university-guy, I explore the world and work on my own comics. Last January, I visited China. It was so exciting, I’m trying to teach myself Mandarin (yes, it’s a pretty crazy pursuit, but my brain can’t get enough of that nutty challenge!). Immediately after the conference, I’m heading to France to see among other things the Lascaux paintings by the nameless prehistorical cast of original Bohemian graffiti artists. As far as graphic novels, I’m preparing a webcomics for kids and writing a script for a longer graphic novel I’ve researched for 10+ years.
Jaime: Nice! Glad to hear you have so many creative irons in the fire. And I have always wanted to see the Lascaux paintings—hope you'll blog about that, Mac. Are there any people you look forward to hearing/seeing at the upcoming LA conference?
Mac: Sure, and it’s funny how my anticipation has changed over time. The first year or two, I attended the SCBWI conference for the knowledge. I got what amounted to a semester-long college course in the craft and industry of creating children’s books. After that, I found that like most folks I knew, we attended the conference for the friends and to encounter speakers who have been life-long inspirations.
Lin Oliver and Stephen Mooser put on a superb show every year, but it’s more than that. It’s a family gathering of sorts. We all love hanging out in the SCBWI "kitchen," enjoying everyone’s company while we’re stuffing our hearts and souls. My only regret when presenting at the conference is missing out on some of the great people who present at the same time I do.
Still, this year, the folks I’ve never had the chance to hear include: Jon Scieszka, Loren Long, Nic Eliopulos, Ashley Bryan, Bruce Hale, Michael Reisman, and many more who no doubt will surprise me!
Jaime: Oh, that kitchen analogy is perfect. Any words of advice to illustrators just starting out in the children's graphic novel/comics field?
Mac: There has hardly been such a great time in the history of US publishing to craft graphic novels for children. So my advice?
Get busy and EMBRACE THE PRESENT!